France will deploy more than 65,000 security forces amid fears of fresh rioting at protests in Paris and around the nation.
Police unions and local authorities held emergency meetings on how to handle the weekend protests, while disparate groups of protesters did the same thing, sharing their plans on social networks and chat groups.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told senators on Thursday that the government will deploy “exceptional” security measures for the protests in Paris and elsewhere, with additional new forces on top of the 65,000 security officers already in place.
Some “yellow vest” protesters, members of France’s leading unions and prominent politicians across the political spectrum called for calm after the worst rioting in Paris in decades last weekend. Many shops and restaurants in the centre of Paris plan to shut down on Saturday, fearing a repeat of the violence.
President Macron on Wednesday agreed to abandon the fuel tax hike, part of his plans to combat global warming, but protesters’ demands have now expanded to other issues hurting French workers, retirees and students.
In a move questioned by both critics and supporters, the president himself has disappeared from public view. Scores of protesting teenagers clashed with police at a high school west of Paris on Thursday, according to French news reports, as part of nationwide student protests over new university admissions procedures and rising administrative fees.
Drivers wearing their signature yellow safety vests continued to block roads around France, now demanding broader tax cuts and wider government social benefits. A small union representing police administrators called for a strike on Saturday, which could further complicate security measures.
French police have come under criticism for failing to prevent damage to the Arc de Triomphe and stores along the famed Champs-Elysees in central Paris last weekend — as well as for violence against protesters.
Videos on social media of police beating protesters at a Burger King near the Champs-Elysees have stoked the anger.
A police spokeswoman said that an investigation is under way into that incident and police are examining other videos online for possible violations. President Macron, the central target of the protests, has been largely invisible all week.
After winning election overwhelmingly last year, the 40-year-old pro-business centrist has sought to make France more competitive globally.
But his efforts have alienated many of his own voters with tax cuts for the rich to spur investment and other badly explained reforms — and what many see as his elitist, out-of-touch attitude.